The Sound of Silence

 Photo: Olivia Wills Kane

Photo: Olivia Wills Kane

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, which accompanied the classic movie, The Graduate, eventually became an anthem for their generation, rousing a spirit of reflection for most and a mood of melancholy for some.  The song’s ironic title and evocative lyrics have made it legendary and brought it to many lists of greatest songs of all time, including Rolling Stone’s Top 500 where it ranks 157th, sandwiched between Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary and The Flamingo’s I Only Have Eyes for You.

We may never visit places of such evil that call for silence, yet we do have countless experiences that beckon us to stillness.

Effective use of silence has the power to be both ironic and evocative.  At times, it can even be transformative. 

During Pope Francis’ trip to Poland for August's World Youth Day, he visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the evil extermination of millions. Departing from the custom of popes’ offering remarks and delivering prepared statements on such visits, Pope Francis simply sat, reflected, prayed, and remained silent. Later, he said: "The great silence of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was more eloquent than any word spoken could have been. In that silence I listened: I felt the presence of all the souls who passed through that place; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God, which a few holy souls were able to bring even into that abyss."

In a world bombarded with images, texts, emails, sound bites, tweets, and a barrage of words, silence can be rare, almost becoming extinct.  Yet, it is as necessary as ever.  We may never visit places of such evil that call for silence, yet we do have countless experiences that beckon us to stillness.  From moments of beauty to experiences of prayer, how does silence mediate grace in our lives? 

As we settle in to this autumn season, maybe less movement of our mouths and bodies can bring us to a new encounter with God who works might deeds with the sound of silence.